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How Can I Talk to My Husband About Infidelity?

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

Approximately 50 percent of couples that seek marriage counseling do so because of infidelity, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Physical infidelity and emotional infidelity can challenge the foundation of your marriage, but it doesn’t have to signal the end of the relationship. Talk to your husband about infidelity before it occurs, if you can. If infidelity has already occurred, discussing the affair could save your marriage.

Defining Infidelity

Your definition of infidelity and your husband’s may differ, according to clinical psychologist Seth Meyers. Meyers suggests that married couples discuss their definitions of physical and emotional infidelity as soon as possible, if not already discussed prior to the wedding. Your husband’s response to the topic could provide information about whether he is having an affair, but it’s a good topic to discuss regardless of whether you suspect he is cheating or if you cheated.

Determining Boundaries

A discussion about infidelity can help you set mutual boundaries in your marriage. List actions you consider cheating when those actions don’t include your spouse, such as sexual intercourse, long conversations on the computer, sexy texts, meeting secretly for a meal and kissing on the lips. A 2013 article in the journal “Evolutionary Psychology” lists 27 actions that some people define as cheating, including showering together, giving money to a potential romantic partner and forming a deep emotional bond, in addition to having genital or oral sex. Pledge to avoid those actions your spouse considers cheating.

Confessing Infidelity

If you committed infidelity, whether or not you had sex, admit it if you want your relationship to be based on trust, suggests author and philosophy professor Mark D. White. If your spouse is going to find out anyway, admit it first. You can’t control his reaction, but trust is more likely to come if you admit it before he discovers it and if you don't lie about it.

Post-Affair Improvement

Your relationship can improve after an affair if you use the information to heal the cracks in your foundation, according to Tammy Nelson, author of “The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity.” Discuss your unmet needs and how to meet each other’s needs on a consistent basis. The spouse who cheated needs to demonstrate compassion and empathy for the betrayed spouse and acknowledge the damage done to that spouse and the relationship. Talk about whether the affair was sexual, emotional or both and how your relationship can improve to get those needs met at home. If you both need variety, talk about how that need can be met without cheating, advises Nelson.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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